Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rock N' Roll Radio...The Story of Ramones Part Two and Show #262

In early 1978, Ramones were with out a drummer (Tommy left the very same year, to pursue a more producer oriented career), Marc Bell would fill that void. Adapting to the Ramones style/ethic, Marc Bell became Marky Ramone and Ramones had their second drummer in the group. Previously Marky had played in the 70's Hard Rock band Dust and also in the New York based Punk band Richard Hell & The Voidoids. In September 1978, Ramones released their forth full length album Road To Ruin. Produced by Tommy Ramone (now going by his real name Tommy Erdelyi) and Ed Stasium, Road To Ruin displayed a shift in the Ramones sound. The album while it still had influences from previous Ramones albums (Surf, 60's Pop, etc.) showed a more serious Pop influenced sound.

The album starts off with the song "I Just Want To Have Something To Do", a song that musically is reminiscent of the early Ramones songs, and lyrically comes off sounding like a more professional and serious group. Tha album is filled with wonderfully produced Rock tracks such as "I Wanted Everything", "I Don't Want You", "I'm Against It", "Go Mental", and "Bad Brain". There is also one of Ramones most well known tracks here, "I Wanna Be Sedated". It is rumoured that the lyric "Put Me In A Wheel Chair and Get Me On A Plane Before I Go Insane", was actually said by Joey Ramone while recovering from a touring related injury. The band also show off a different more acoustic based Pop side with songs such as "Don't Come Close", the dramatic cover of "Needles & Pins", and "Questioningly", a song written by Dee Dee Ramone. "She's The One" is also another lost classic featured on Road To Ruin. The song is simply a love song lyrically and actually features minor chords (which wasn't a usual thing for the band). There is also a hidden lyrical nugget on this track for anyone that is a fan of The Kinks, the line "When I See Her On The Street You Know She Makes My Life Complete" is similar to a line in found in the Kinks song "Everybody's Gonna Be Happy". The album ends with the song "It's A Long Way Back", which is yet another Dee Dee written track and a German themed song (a theme that is evident on early Ramones albums). The album's cover art, which was a cartoon version of the band was done by Punk Magazine co-founder John Holmstrom.

While Road To Ruin may have been an excellently crafted album, it failed to Billboard Top 100 charts. The single "Don't Come Close" did chart on the UK singles charts at #39, but the other singles from the album did not. As a result the band would then go onto experimenting with a variety of different producers often changing the way they sounding in hopes of getting radio airplay, but the band would remain in cult status for a long time. Before completing their next album, Ramones were featured in the 1979 movie Rock N' Roll High School. Directed by Roger Corman, the film did not help the gain a larger fan base at the time. The soundtrack to the movie featured several Ramones track remixed by Phil Spector and the title track "Rock N' Roll High School", which differs from the version found on the bands next album End of The Century.

The Phil Spector produced album, was drastically different than any previous Ramones release. While Joey was a big fan of the work that Spector had done in the past, many have said that the production work on the album did not fit the band well. For the slower songs such as "Danny Says", a song written about Ramones manager Danny Fields and touring works well on this album. Despite the production style that album features many well written Ramones such as "Do You Remember Rock 'n' Roll Radio?", "I'm Affected", and "This Ain't Havanna". There was also a song titled "Chinese Rocks", which was a song written by Dee Dee Ramone and Richard Hell. The Song first appeared on the Johnny Thunders and The Heartbreakers album LAMF in 1977. The album would chart at #44 on the US album charts (their highest to date) and #14 in the UK. The single "Baby, I Love You" was the bands only top UK hit, going to #8 on the UK singles charts.

The bands sixth album would be titled Pleasant Dreams in 1981. The album was produced by Graham Gouldman, 60's Pop producer known for his work with The Yardbirds, The Hollies and 10cc. The album was what Marky Ramone calls their Pop Punk album. The album this time featured individual song writing credits (previously everyone shared the credits) and the band were on edge with each other after the recording sessions with Phil Spector for End of The Century. His eccentric and over compulsive demeanour of recording only heightened difficulties within the group resulting in a lack of communication between the band members.

Despite this fact Pleasant Dreams features some Ramones songs that should not be avoided. Songs such as "We Want The Airwaves", a Joey Ramone written track obviously reflecting his interest in gaining commercial success, "All Quiet On the Eastern Front", and "It's Not My Place (In the 9 to 5 World)" a song that comes off with a Clash sounding influence. There were also other great tracks such as "The KKK Took My Baby Away", a song that is eerily similar to Cheap Trick's "He's A Whore", the 60's Pop/Garage Rock influenced "Come On Now" written by Dee Dee Ramone, and the Joey Ramone track "She's A Sensation". The album reached #58 on the US album charts and also was the first album to not feature the band on the cover, instead there is a cartoon of a creepy man in a trench coat. Johnny Ramone has stated that he originally wanted to use a photo of the band that was influenced by the Horror movie Psycho .

Ramones spent most of 1982 touring, but in 1983 their seventh album Subterranean Jungle was released. This time the band chose the production team of Ritchie Cordell and Glen Kolotkin, who were known for their work with Joan Jett & The Heartbreakers and as the heads of an independent American record label. The band was once again hoping for a commercial success with this release, but unfortunately it was not. The album opens with a cover of the song "Little Bit O'Soul" a song originally by The Music Explosion in 1967. There were also two other covers "I Need Your Love" (originally by The Boyfriends) and "Time Has Come Today" (originally by The Chambers Brothers). The rest of the album features Ramones originals such as "Outsider" and "Time Bomb" two Dee Dee originals with him singing lead vocals on "Time Bomb". The album also featured collaboration between Dee Dee and Johnny Ramone, on the song "Psycho Therapy". The song is a song that is just as good as any in the bands catalog and features classic Ramones style lyrics. The album can be seen as more of a return to the bands Punk roots, but it is obvious that this album also reflected the bands 60's Pop influences as well. While this album did contain some songs that were perfectly capable of being chart topping hits, the album only went to #83 on the US album charts, it would also be their last album to be in the Billboard Top 100.

During the Subterranean Jungle sessions Marky Ramone's alcohol use was at an increased level and he was kicked out of the band because of it. In fact drummer Billy Rogers plays drums on "Little Bit O'Soul" and "Time Has Come Today". Another interesting fact about this album is that Walter Lure, who was a member of Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers plays on Subterranean Jungle, he doubles all of Johnny Ramones guitar parts. The band would get a new drummer, one that would lead them into a different musical realm. Ritchie Ramone (real name Ritchie Reinhardt), came in as the bands drummer. As a result the band became a faster paced band entering a music style that some might call similar to Hardcore music. This was evident on the bands next album, 1984's Too Tough To Die. This album has been called by some critics "the last great Ramones album". Too Tough To Die Features 13 songs, nine of which were co-written with Dee Dee Ramone. He sings on two of the songs ("Wart Hog" and "Endless Vacation"). This album was also a return to Tommy Ramone and Ed Stasium fulfilling producing duties. The album came off sounding like a hard Punk album with Hardcore capabilities and strong vocal melodies. Another interesting fact is that the albums cover is homage to the movie A Clockwork Orange.

In 1986, Animal Boy was released. The album featured songs such as "My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down (Bonzo Goes to Bitburg)" and "Somebody Put Something in My Drink" a song written by Ritchie Ramone. In 1987, Halfway To Sanity was released. It would be the last album with Ritchie Ramone on drums, he left following a tour and Marky Ramone came back into the group now that he was sober. Ramone contributed a song "Pet Semetary" to the Stephen King movie of the same name in 1989. The song was also featured on the bands next album Brain Drain, which would be the last one to feature Dee Dee Ramone on bass. He was replaced by Christopher Ward otherwise know as CJ Ramone until the end of the bands career. It should also be noted that even though Dee Dee left the group to pursue his own musical projects (first his Dee Dee King rap album, then Dee Dee & The Chinese Dragons), but he would still give lyrics to the Ramones to use for their songs.

The Ramones continued touring and releasing albums until 1996. Their last album was Adios Amigos! in 1995. On August 4th, 1996 Ramones played their final live show. The concert featured special music guests such as Dee Dee Ramone, Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell, Lemmy (from Motorhead) and more. By the end of the bands career the band had played 2, 263 concerts. The Ramones remain an influential band and still have many diehard fans. On April 15th, 2001 Joey Ramone passed away after a battle with lymphoma. In 2002, The Ramones were the first Punk band inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In June 2002, Dee Dee Ramone passed away after a heroin overdose and Johnny Ramone passed away in September 2004 after a battle with cancer. There is a great DVD documentary available titled End of The Century: The Story of The Ramones that features interviews from several of the band members and other musicians such as Joe Strummer. In 2007 a two DVD set was released titled It's Alive 1974-1996. It features 118 performances from different points in the bands career.

To view Part One of my Ramones History click here:
Gabba Gabba Hey!: The Ramones Story Part One

Play List:

1. Ramones - Little Bit O'Soul
2. Ramones - I Don't Wanna Go Down To The Basement (1975 Demo)
3. Dee Dee Ramone & The Chinese Dragons - What About Me
4. The Dead Boys - Ain't Nothin' To Do
5. Pointed Sticks - The Marching Song
6. Active Dog - Nothing Holding You
7. Rude Norton - Sea Cruise
8. The Pretty Faces - Rib
9. The Plasticines - I Could Rob You
10. Devil Eyes - Rip My Heart Out
11. Heroes & Villains - SDWC
12. Modern Lovers - Someone I Care About
13. Golden Hands - Communist Party
14. The Esquires - It's A Dirty Shame
15. Sound Box - Warm Your Mind & Soul
16. Simply Saucer - Bullet Proof Nothing
17. Iggy & The Stooges - Gimme Danger
18. Madness - Dust Devil
19. The Specials - Gangsters
20. New Strychnines - Strychnine
21. Talking Heads - 1-2-3 Redlight (Live Max's Kansas City 1976)
22. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - Stagger Lee
23. Mando Diao - Mean Street
24. Richard Hell & The Voidoids - Time
25. Television - Untitled Instrumental

To download this week's show visit the CJAM archives and select the files 10:00 AM and 11:00 AM on August 18th, 2009.

Ramones Videos II:

She's The One & Go Mental (Old Grey Whistle Test 1978)
I Wanna Be Sedated
Psycho Therapy
Time Has Come Today


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